The Sanctuary of Our Lady Star of the Sea
12 Feb 2023
Since I arrived as parish priest, the beauty of the Church of Our Lady Star of the Sea has made a deep impression upon me. A Church of the 1930s, though unlisted, has a striking and understated character, especially with the rare feature of the soaring baldacchino or canopy over the Altar and Tabernacle.
In removing the carpet, we rediscovered the fine parquet flooring; in moving the priest and deacons chairs to the side, I wanted to refocus all our attention on the Presence of the Lord in the Tabernacle and show the clergy as also attentive to the Word of God in the readings; in the restoration of the doors of the Tabernacle to their original silver plating to show how precious this most sacred part of the Church is for what is contained within - the Blessed Sacrament.
Since August, thanks to Father Humphrey’s talent as a joiner, we have been able to experiment with the prototype sanctuary walls to see whether we might restore these walls, together with the original Altar gates that were safely rescued and preserved, even after the sanctuary walls were discarded. The Altar gates are presently being renovated and restored to their former beauty and I intend to instruct the sanctuary walls, together with the original 1930s gates, to be reinstalled. This will restore another beautiful original feature of the Church.
Some further developments to share with you: I found a beautiful Ambo, similar in design to the Altar, on a furniture website, and so have purchased to replace the present Lectern. This should be able to be installed in the coming weeks. It is a very imposing piece of furniture and will add another refinement to the sanctuary.
On some older photographs, there were two small pillars or columns either side of the Altar, which held either floral displays or candelabras. Having been on the lookout, I have found a pair almost exactly the same as those originally flanking the Altar, and these too will be positioned, as they were back in the 1930s.
I had proposed to the diocese, and shared with the parish, my vision that we might reorder the sanctuary to move the Altar and detach the Tabernacle, permitting us to utilise the Altar rather than using the temporary, wooden, and smaller altar table that is situated on the lower sanctuary, and has become something of a
hinderance to the priest and deacon and the number of servers we have. The costs involved for us, especially as a parish paying down a large debt, are - at present - beyond us.
However, it seems odd to me that we have such a beautiful stone Altar and sanctuary, that we do
not use the original Altar of the Church and set aside the altar table, returning our orientation and our prayer, priest and people together, towards the Altar and the Tabernacle, towards the East, as parishioners and priests did almost a century ago, when the Church was built, until such time as we have the funds to move the stone Altar.
I hope you will be open to this way forward, and I will explain a little more about this reorientation of our prayer at Mass over the coming weeks, as the sanctuary begins to take shape with the hoped-for return of the sanctuary walls, restored Altar gates, new Ambo, small columns, Tabernacle veils and perhaps a carpet runner, centrally between the Altar and the lower sanctuary, as shown on original photographs.
If anyone is interested or has any questions - please do speak to me! Depending on the numbers of those who would like to know more, I would be very happy to give a presentation and overview of this vision.
Meanwhile, I encourage you to say a prayer in thanksgiving to God for all those who have come before us in our parish and who left their spiritual legacy to us in such a beautiful inheritance in our churches.